Updated: City, county pursue joint resolution on pot

Seventy-five pounds of marijuana were found in 2003 at 29401 Airline Highway.

City of Hollister and San Benito County officials are looking to find a joint resolution on pot.
That double entendre is appropriate because city and county elected officials expect they will work together in the coming weeks to develop corresponding ordinances on medicinal marijuana.
Both boards are taking up the increasingly complex issue in light of a state requirement, which may be extended beyond March 1, to establish local rules on whether pot cultivation is allowed and under what circumstances. It’s a state law change that comes during a period of significant change for the industry, with the possibility of a ballot item in November to consider legalization of recreational pot as well.
County and city officials have plenty of questions moving forward, which spurred separate direction given by the respective boards Monday and Tuesday to have subcommittees established on the topic from the two government entities meet about possibly formulating one set of guidelines for the whole area.
Hollister Councilman Ray Friend, like other colleagues, had questions Monday about current state laws and other communities’ precedent when it comes to establishing required, local regulations on medicinal marijuana.
The council ended up taking action—despite no mention of the possibility on the special meeting agenda—to appoint an ad hoc committee for further consideration on a range of questions related to the topic.
Friend at the city’s special meeting Monday brought up his own experience with medicinal marijuana. He said a couple of years ago before his wife passed away, he would retrieve medicinal marijuana for her in the last six months of her life. Out of necessity, because Hollister’s previously operating dispensary had been shut down by the city and county governments, he drove to a Santa Cruz dispensary for the marijuana.
He asked Police Chief David Westrick, seated below to his right in the council chambers, whether it had been OK for him to drive that pot from Santa Cruz to Hollister without a prescription of his own.
“No, you would’ve had a problem two years ago,” Westrick replied.
It was among a variety of questions to consider on an increasingly complex issue. Council members discussed current laws, actions by other communities in setting local ordinances before the March 1 deadline, whether to address cultivation as the only requirement or other issue such as zoning, and circumstances with the state that could lead to pursuing an urgency ordinance or a permanent one.
By the end of the meeting, council members took action by appointing that ad hoc committee, despite the fact that the agenda merely called for reviewing of the city’s medicinal marijuana ordinance, which will coordinate with the county. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, without anything on the agenda specifying the potential for appointments, appointed Councilmen Ray Friend and Karson Klauer to the committee directed to review a wide range of related issues.
Next, council members could take two paths: If the state extends its March 1 deadline, the city could work on a long-term ordinance on such considerations as zoning, dispensaries and manufacturing. If legislators don’t extend it, council members would consider an urgency ordinance regarding cultivation—basically a yes or no—in mid-February so they would be in compliance with the state law and could recalibrate for a permanent solution.
Before the meeting, meanwhile, City Clerk Tom Graves neglected to send an agenda on the matter to the Free Lance, which subscribes to the council agendas and regularly receives them. This came six weeks after County Clerk Louie Valdez did not send a board of supervisors agenda to the newspaper for a special meeting on the same topic.
Graves, like Valdez, said it was an oversight.
Graves did email the agenda for the special meeting on medical marijuana shortly before 3 p.m. Monday (two hours before the gathering) to a select group of people excluding the Free Lance. He noted in the email, later obtained by the newspaper, how the agenda should have gone out earlier but he also stressed that it met requirements of the state open meetings law, the Brown Act.
The following morning, the county board gave direction to have a subcommittee of supervisors work with council members on the matter.
“I think it’s important for the board to understand that the people that are involved in this industry in a legal and legitimate way are God-fearing and law-abiding citizens,” said Aaron Johnson, an attorney for the L&G law firm who represents the Coastal Growers Association.
Local resident Ann Ross was on the other side of the argument from a community perspective.
“Is marijuana what we really want to do?” she said. “Isn’t there anything else we can think of?”

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